Fr. Dan McCaffrey, founder of NFP
Outreach (Natural Family Planning Outreach) insists that God's plan for
human love, or NFP, is a preachable message. Hermiston is living proof of
Oregon presents a real challenge to
the acceptance of the values contained in
Vitae. The state is 60 percent unchurched. Even Catholics pride
themselves on being independent, free thinkers, and self reliant. The
great push for euthanasia took place here, because of little resistance to
it, and assisted suicide is still legal. There are no restrictions on
pornography. In the Diocese of Baker, which encompasses 68,000 square
miles, and everything east of the Cascade Mountains, there are 40,000
Catholics. Bishop Robert Vasa has 39 active priests to assist him, and
many come from other countries and other states.
Fr. Joseph Reinig is 70 years old.
He was a married man, with nine children, and then became a widower. He
was called to the priesthood, did his theology at Blessed Pope John XXIII
seminary in Weston, MA, and was ordained in 1998. When Marge Rolen
approached her pastor with the prospect of a Parish Mission on Birth
Control, he immediately recognized the value of this. Marge and her
husband, Dr. Robert Rolen OD, teach natural family planning.
Both Fr. Reinig and Marge believe
that the great response of the people to this message can be attributed to
the blessings and assistance of our Blessed Mother. In Hermiston there are
75 family shrines dedicated to Our Lady of Schoenstadt, which is a form of
Marian spirituality applied to marriage and family life. Our Blessed
Mother prepared hearts for all this to happen, and for the receptivity to
the Church's teaching on marital love.
Publicity went out to the parish and
neighboring parishes a month in advance. Invitations to special events
were sent to NFP couples, to midwives, medical doctors, and to local
priests and deacons. Committees were formed. One More Soul provided 200
audiotapes of Janet Smith's "Contraception – Why Not?" in both
Spanish and English. These were made available in the Church vestibule the
week before, and almost all were taken. Attractive posters with photos of
the speakers appeared on the Church doors, and notices were placed in
Emails and telephone calls exchanged
regularly among Hermiston, Oklahoma City and Atchison, KS. Fr. Matthew
Habiger OSB, a moral theologian from St. Benedict's Abbey in Atchison,
arrived on Thursday, 25 Jan 03. Dr. Martha Garza, MD OB/Gyn, arrived on
Saturday from San Antonio, TX.
Friday morning there was a two hour
conference with six priests and two deacons. The emphasis here was how to
preach this message, and where to find rich resources for explaining God's
plan for human love and life. Fr. Matthew provided a wealth of material,
much of which is available from One More Soul. (Visit their website:
The response from the priests and deacons was enthusiastic.
Friday afternoon a reporter from the
East Oregonian came to the parish for an interview. Fr. Matthew explained,
in layman's terms, the beauty of God's plan for marriage and family, how
far we have drifted away from that plan, and why respect for human
fertility and the life-giving power of authentic love is the way to return
to God's plan. The reporter invited Fr. Reinig to contribute future
articles to the religion section of her newspaper.
Friday evening there was a potluck
supper for NFP couples of the parish and their children, about 50 people.
Fr. Matthew and Fr. Reinig encouraged the couples to continue the
wonderful witness of their lives, and to share the secret of their good
marriages and happy families with others.
Over the weekend there were six
Masses, three in English, and three in Spanish. At all of the Masses Fr.
Matthew received the complete attention of the congregation, an
endorsement from the parish priests, and then applause. Clearly, the
message of God's plan for human love and life was falling on ears open to
the truth, and upon hearts willing to respond to God's will. Maria de
Jesus (Chuchy), the parish secretary, helped Fr. Matthew fine-tunes his
homily to the culture of the Mexican parishioners.
Saturday night there was a supper
for medical doctors, nurses, midwives, pharmacologists, and teachers of
NFP in Kennewick, WA, about 40 miles north of Hermiston. 30 people came to
hear Dr. Martha Garza speak about the need for, and the merits of, NFP.
This was the first time all these people had come together to reflect upon
these matters. As a result of this event, we can expect that there will be
much more promotion of these values in the Tri-Cities of Pasco, Kennewick
and Richland, WA, and Walla Walla.
On Sunday, after each of the five
Masses (2 in English and three in Spanish), there was a conference in the
parish hall. Doughnuts, coffee and soft drinks were provided. After the
11:30, 1:30 and 6 PM Mass sandwiches and cookies were also provided by the
parish, as well as child care. Many pamphlets in English and Spanish,
published by the Couple to Couple League, were made available, along with
audio tapes by Dr. Janet Smith on "Contraception – Why Not?"
Topics ranged from sterilization, side effects of contraception, tactics
used by Planned Parenthood, to benefits coming from the virtue of
Dr. Martha Garza MD is remarkably
gifted for presenting the values of Humanae Vitae, Familiaris Consortio
and Donum Vitae, documents of the Church which contain the
moral principles which pertain to human love and human life. Besides being
an OB/Gyn, she is also a reproductive endochrinologist, (a specialist in
hormones and fertility). She brings both theoretical and practical
knowledge of the dangers and risks to health caused by birth control
pills, Norplant and Depo Provera. She explains how she came to fully
appreciate the beauty of God's plan for fertility and life-giving love. As
a woman, she brings a special sensitivity to the importance of fertility
for a woman. "A woman," she asserts, "is by her very makeup
a life-giving person." Contraception regards human fertility as a
disease, instead of a blessing, and is a contradiction to love's
requirement for total, unconditional gift of self to another person, and
the total acceptance of the gift of self made by the other to you.
Audiences after each Mass listened
and watched attentively as she described the biological processes involved
in the first days of life. Many couples simply do not know how God
designed the human body. They do not appreciate the fact that we are
bodied persons, male and female, made in the image and likeness of God.
Nor do they understand the importance of the fact that our fertility is an
intimate part of our persons. The culture of death draws a curtain of
non-perception over these realities, and reduces them to mere objects to
be manipulated according to our whims.
Dr. Garza lamented that she had
attended Catholic schools for 16 years, and never heard these values
explained. Medical schools have not yet discovered natural family
planning, and the money to be gained from the sale of contraceptives
encourages them to ignore it. Only with time and lived experience did she
come to understand where contraception and sterilization go wrong, and
began to search more deeply into the Church's wisdom on human sexuality.
Then she discovered the theology of the body as so eloquently explained by
Pope John Paul II.
After the 8 AM Mass (English) 40
parishioners came to hear her. After the 9:30 Mass (Spanish) 70 came.
After the 11:30 (English) 50 came. After the 1:30 (Spanish), 90 came.
After the 6 PM (Spanish), 50 came. When you consider the energy that goes
into making presentations, answering questions, and then dealing with
private questions, you can appreciate how weary Dr. Garza was at the end
of that Sunday.
Were there doubting Thomases and
Thomasitas at Our Lady of the Angels? Undoubtedly. They have not heard
this message proclaimed for over thirty years. And in this they are
typical Catholics. But everyone today knows that something is seriously
wrong in a society where more than 50 percent of marriages break up, 80-90
percent of Catholics are either contracepting or are sterilized, 1/4 to
1/3 of all unborn babies are aborted, and 80 percent of young couples are
cohabitating. Everyone knows that this is not what God intended for love,
life, marriage and family. Everyone is looking for a better way to promote
good marriages and healthy, happy families. Only one stood up and left,
and this health care provider. The collection that Sunday was as good as
any typical Sunday. And most people applauded.
Many commented that Fr. Matthew's
sermon did not make them feel condemned or harsh. They appreciated the
fact that most of the blame was placed on the clergy for not telling us.
One lady, a convert, said: "I wondered if not to sterilize was a
Church teaching anymore since I had not heard it ever spoken at
If this could happen in Hermiston,
OR, at Our Lady of the Angels parish, it could very well happen at your
parish also. For more information call
"A miracle happened in this
parish this past weekend," beamed Fr. Joseph Reinig, pastor of Our
Lady of the Angels parish in Hermiston, OR. This encapsulates what
happened over three days in a parish of 1,100 families, 60 percent of
which are Hispanic.
405 942 4084 or
405 728 9644 or email at
What will be the follow-up at
Hermiston? We can expect a greater demand for classes in NFP. Thus it is
crucial that NFP teachers already be in place before the NFP weekend.
Periodic reminders will come from the priests and deacons about the
importance of these values. Pamphlets and audiotapes in both Spanish and
English will be in circulation throughout the parish. God willing, when
the happiness of marriages and the vitality of families in this parish
increases and multiplies, other people will begin to notice and begin to
ask: "What is it that you know that we don't know?"
Marge Rolen concludes: "We so
appreciate this help from outside the parish, and the help of such
expertise. We have only good things to say about NFP Outreach. It is God's
help for our times."